You’re lying in bed attempting to sleep when you begin to notice the sound: Your ear has a whooshing or throbbing in it. The sound is rhythmic and tuned in to your heartbeat. And once you hear that sound, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you up, which is bad because you need your sleep and you’ve got a big day tomorrow. And all of a sudden you feel really anxious, very not sleepy.
Does this seem familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it so happens, are closely related. A vicious cycle that robs you of your sleep and affects your health can be the result.
Can anxiety lead to tinnitus?
Tinnitus is generally referred to as a ringing in the ears. But it’s not that simple. First of all, the actual noise you hear can take a large number of forms, from pulsation to throbbing to ringing and so on. But the sound you’re hearing isn’t an actual outside sound. For many people, tinnitus can appear when you’re feeling stressed out, which means that stress-related tinnitus is definitely a thing.
An anxiety disorder is an affliction in which feelings of fear, worry, or (as the name suggests) anxiety are difficult to control and intense enough to hinder your daily life. This can manifest in many ways physically, including as tinnitus. So can tinnitus be caused by anxiety? Definitely!
Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combination bad?
There are a couple of reasons why this particular combo of tinnitus and anxiety can lead to bad news:
- You might be having a more serious anxiety attack if you start to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve made this connection, any episode of tinnitus (whether related to anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your general anxiety levels.
- Most individuals tend to experience tinnitus more often at night. Can ringing in the ears be triggered by anxiety? Yes, but the ringing may have also been there during the day but your day-to-day activities simply covered up the symptoms. This can make it more difficult to get to sleep. And more anxiety can result from not sleeping.
Often, tinnitus can begin in one ear and then change to the other. Sometimes, it can hang around 24/7–all day every day. In other situations, it might pulsate for a few moments and then disappear. Whether continuous or sporadic, this combo of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.
How does tinnitus-anxiety impact your sleep?
So, yeah, anxiety-driven tinnitus could easily be contributing to your sleep problems. Some examples of how are as follows:
- The sound of your tinnitus can be stressful and difficult to ignore. In the silence of the night, your tinnitus can be so unrelenting that you lie awake until morning. Your tinnitus can get even louder and harder to ignore as your anxiety about not sleeping increases.
- Most individuals sleep in locations that are intentionally quiet. You turn everything off because it’s time for bed. But your tinnitus can become much more noticeable when everything is quiet.
- Your stress level will continue to rise the longer you go without sleep. The more stressed you are, the worse your tinnitus will be.
When your tinnitus is due to anxiety, you may fear an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing noise. This can, understandably, make it very difficult to sleep. The issue is that lack of sleep, well, sort of makes everything worse.
How lack of sleep affects your health
As this vicious cycle continues, the health affects of insomnia will become much more severe. And your overall wellness can be negatively affected by this. Some of the most common effects include the following:
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and wellness will be affected over time by lack of sleep. Increased risk of a stroke or heart disease can be the result.
- Inferior work results: Clearly, your job performance will suffer if you can’t get a sound night’s sleep. Your thinking will be slower and your mood will be less positive.
- Elevated stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms already present will get worse if you don’t sleep. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can occur.
- Slower reaction times: Your reaction times will be slower when you’re exhausted. This can make daily tasks like driving a little more dangerous. And it’s especially hazardous if you run heavy equipment, for instance.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, is not the only source of anxiety. And recognizing these causes is essential (largely because they will help you avoid anxiety triggers, which as an additional bonus will help you avoid your tinnitus symptoms). Some of the most typical causes of anxiety include the following:
- Medical conditions: In some instances, you might simply have a medical condition that makes you more prone to an increased anxiety response.
- Stress response: Our bodies will have a natural anxiety response when something causes us stress. That’s fantastic if you’re being chased by a tiger. But it’s less good when you’re working on a project for work. oftentimes, the relationship between the two isn’t very clear. You could have an anxiety attack today from something that caused a stress response last week. You might even have an anxiety attack in reaction to a stressor from a year ago, for example.
- Hyperstimulation: For some people, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can bring on an anxiety episode. Being in a crowded environment, for instance, can cause some people to have an anxiety response.
Other factors: Some of the following, less common factors might also trigger anxiety:
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Poor nutrition
- Stimulant usage (that includes caffeine)
- Certain recreational drugs
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And if you believe you have an anxiety disorder, you should consult your provider about treatment options.
How to deal with your anxiety-related tinnitus?
You have two general options to treat anxiety-induced tinnitus. The anxiety can be addressed or the tinnitus can be dealt with. Here’s how that may work in either case:
In general, anxiety disorders are managed in one of two ways:
- Medication: Medications may be used, in other circumstances, to make anxiety symptoms less prevalent.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently exacerbate your anxiety symptoms and this strategy will help you recognize those thought patterns. By interrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more successfully prevent anxiety attacks.
There are a variety of ways to treat tinnitus and this is especially true if symptoms manifest primarily at night. Here are some common treatments:
- Masking device: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This might help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
- White noise machine: Use a white noise machine when you’re trying to sleep. Your tinnitus symptoms might be able to be masked by this approach.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If someone with tinnitus can recognize and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can decrease the disruptive impact it has. CBT is an approach that helps them do that by helping them create new thought patterns.
You could get better sleep by dealing with your tinnitus
You’ll be in danger of falling into a vicious cycle of anxiety and tinnitus if the whooshing and ringing are keeping you up at night. One plan is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. Give us a call so we can help.